canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

First-time Authors on Governor General Awards 2007 Shortlist

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The Governor General’s Literary Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, December 13, 2007, 6 p.m. at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

by Nathaniel G. Moore

For the publisher’s of first-time poet Rob Winger and first-time novelist David Chariandy, it's nothing short of a dream come true. They've each been nominated for the 2007 Governor General's Award.

"David's manuscript came to us having been recommended by a number of our authors, who were friends of his," said Brian Lam, publisher of Vancouver-based Arsenal Pulp Press, who published Chariandy’s first novel Soucouyant, the story of a son rediscovering the Caribbean heritage he has rejected, earlier this fall. 

Lam continued: "Immediately after reading it, we knew that we wanted to publish it. We knew that it was one of the best novels we'd ever published, and the praise and awards recognition that David is now receiving is well-deserved. As an added bonus, David is an absolute pleasure to work with--the editorial process was easy in the sense that we were both on the same page, so to speak."

Of his first book of poetry being nominated, rookie year poet Rob Winger explained, "Seeing my name on the shortlist was quite an incredible shock, especially given the other writers who are there too. And though it might sound clichéd to say so, I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to be nominated." 

Silas White, publisher at Nightwood was equally thrilled: "Rob clearly put so much work into this collection I've actually been afraid to ask him how many years in total... Muybridge's Horse has been compared to The Collected Works of Billy the Kid in reviews, which I do think is a fair comparison stylistically and conceptually---yet in some ways it's more ambitious." 

The collection’s spine centres around the remarkable life of English-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830 –1904). The poetry category, like the fiction category, teems with prestigious entries. In poetry from Lee to Atwood, in fiction from Gowdy to Ondaatje, it could be suggested that Winger and Chariandy are underdogs, but deserving of their position in both categories. 

Chariandy was long-listed for the Giller and is fresh from an appearance at the International Festival of Authors. Lam noted the nominations are also an accomplishment for the press: "It gives our press more credibility; as a publisher based in Vancouver, we always to fight a little harder to get noticed by the publishing powers-that-be in Toronto and elsewhere. But most of all, we're so happy for David, because he deserves it."

As the country awaits the victors in each category, and, as the sales for these titles do indeed swell, these small presses have accomplished something unique, in their achievement, getting first-time authors on page with such literary giants. 

"It is one of those rare books that makes you feel you've lived a whole other life after reading it," suggested White. "Books like this only come around every so often. It was certainly an easy decision to publish it!"






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